Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kurtistown, Hawaii received an award in the Foster Express Challenge for their number of short-term foster trips for a small shelter. They had 118 animals who participated in the challenge including 32 dogs and 86 cats who went on 211 total trips! The trips included activities like taking dogs to agility training classes, sleepovers and weekenders.
Executive Director, Lauren Riga took the time to tell us more about the tactics used to get their adoptable animals out of the shelter and how the sanctuary's participation in the challenge helped prepare them for the COVID-19 crisis.
Existing Foster Programming
Prior to kicking off the Foster Express Challenge, Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary's long-standing foster program includes various options for short-term fostering. Their most active short-term fostering initiative are the kitten fosters, where volunteers foster kittens and many of those are adopted out through their Petco adoption partnership.
Other short-term fostering activities include volunteers taking dogs to weekly agility training classes. Overnight or weekend fosters are very common, especially for recent intakes who need extra wellness support in the near-term. Medical short-term fosters are also common for animals recovering from an illness or injury, who are on a medical regime and need extra personalized care. Sometimes families just want to test things out to see if adoption is right for them before making the commitment while offering a short holiday for the rescue animal.
Promoting the Challenge
Rainbow Friends issued a press release to the public announcing their participation in the Maddie’s Fund Foster Express Challenge. The announcement described different ways the community could participate and encouraged participation. They also spread the word on social media and highlighted the Challenge at their largest annual fundraiser, Howling Holidays. When families visited the sanctuary for any reason, they received information about the challenge and many chose to actively participate multiple times!
One of the biggest surprises to the Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary team came from the amount of animals that participated in the challenge that ended up being adopted and finding their forever homes! They learned that it's easier for people to agree to a short-term foster and in many cases, all it took was the welcoming of the pet into the house for a short period of time for the entire family to fall in love and adopt their new furry relative.
Advice for Your Short-Term Fostering Program
Short-term fostering takes different shapes and forms. Taking some time upfront to design an effective short-term foster program is critical to putting into action and managing various facets pertaining to fostering outlets, as well as collecting/tracking information and data. In other words, establishing a short-term fostering program framework and implementation strategy will help streamline operations, maximize participation and accurately manage/track valuable information to learn from and share with larger networks, such as Maddie’s Fund and various partners.
The information tracked will help identify valuable intel and feedback to learn from and make adjustments as needed. A big incentive for taking the time upfront to develop your short-term fostering program framework is because it will facilitate the execution of putting the program into practice, ongoing participation will run easier and the program will be more resilient to unknowns that will inevitably pop up! Even a basic framework will provide a foundation that will increase your chances of success tenfold.
As mentioned in the Chew on This blog post, components of a short-term foster program ‘framework and implementation strategy’ can include:
- establishing a system for collecting/tracking information
- developing protocols around carrying out the different short-term fostering options and requirements
- and putting into effect a clear method of communication for the volunteers, staff and participants, where accurate and up-to-date information can flow efficiently and with ease.
This advice was particularly relevant to Rainbow Friends at the time of the challenge, as they were converting from a paper system to an online system to track and manage sanctuary operations, including fosters and adoptions.
Fostering During COVID-19
RFAS’ participation in the Foster Express Challenge gave them valuable experience with an increased volume of short-term fostering; which has demonstrated to be extremely useful during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, their short-term fostering numbers have once again sky-rocketed, with an overwhelming amount of those turning into permanent adoptions.
Having already completed the challenge, they gained valuable insight and preparation for the surge of interested and active fosters. "We are pleased and honored to share positive stories, where experience and knowledge gained from the Challenge without a doubt contributed to the surge of successful short-term fosters during COVID-19."
New Furever Homes
Meet a few pets, all cozy in their new homes, as positive outcomes derived from COVID-19 and participation in the Maddie’s Fund Foster Express Challenge.
Benji represents a double celebration as a short-term foster and partnership success story. In recent weeks, collaboration among Rainbow Friends and partner organization KARES has skyrocketed with dozens of companion animals placed in short-term fosters to forever homes. Benji is a Rainbow Friends and KARES success, as his short-term foster-to-adopt stay was short- lived when a previous adopter saw him in transit and applied for adoption immediately. Everything checked out and he was placed in his new forever family before weekend’s end.
Rainbow Friends is also thankful to KARES for the extra generous food donations shared and delivered to the Sanctuary in recent weeks, especially because of limits and shortages.
Stitch is a one week trial foster with a first-time foster caregiver who wanted to see if she could offer a homeless animal some comfort while working from home for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. They were such a great fit that she immediately decided to adopt him. It was wonderful to experience the joy of a first-time foster turn into a loving forever home.
Kirby was a Foster Express Challenge participant and long-time sanctuary resident. Having been fostered and returned a few times, he finally found his forever home as a result of the ‘COVID-19’ short-term fostering influx. This phenomenon has worked in Kirby’s favor!
Thank you to Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary for all of your hard work and tips about short-term fostering! Use the links below to stay up to date with all Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary has to offer & leave a comment for their team in the replies.
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